Jump to content

Photo

In defense of Pac-Man...


371 replies to this topic

#76 accousticguitar OFFLINE  

accousticguitar

    Quadrunner

  • 7,036 posts
  • Sherlock made it to 15 before he left us.
  • Location:Idaho

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 6:15 PM

"The big issue for me was quality vs. cost. The quality was terrible and the cost was huge. Atari took a game that should have sold for $10 and sold it for $30-$40. They charged top dollar for a lousy game. If I had paid $10 for it I probably would have liked it just fine, but at $30 (the same price I paid for Asteroids) it was a rip off."

Bit of perspective: Most Atari carts cost 10 to manufacture. They marked it up 10, then the retailer marked it up 10-20. Most VCS games were made by one person in six months. Pacman cost Atari just as much to produce as any other game. (In fact it may have cost them more, for the license fee and Tod Fry's royalty.)

Wikipedia says it cost $4.50 to $6.00 to make each cartridge which sounds realistic to me. It was still only worth $10 retail imo.



#77 pacman000 OFFLINE  

pacman000

    Stargunner

  • 1,442 posts

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 6:44 PM

Hmmm... I thought Phoenix: the fall & rise of videogames said it cost 10 to produce. I could be wrong tho. Maybe that was the wholesale cost? I'll have to check.

#78 christo930 OFFLINE  

christo930

    Moonsweeper

  • 299 posts

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 8:08 PM

Pac-Man is a good game! It has gotten a bum rap over the years. I will be the first to admit that Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man are technically superior and more accurate to the arcade. But for some reason, the original Pac-Man is the one I keep feeling myself drawn back to. I think its because it feels the most Atariest of all the Pac-Man games. To me it embodies the 2600. (It was also one of the dozen Atari games I had as a kid, so there's also the nostalgia factor.) 

 

I love the sounds: bah-dee-dah-dee... bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk 
 

I love how the manual retconned the line shaped dots and rectangular bonus items to be "video wafers" and "Vitamins", and how it paints a picture of you showing up at your arcade like a rockstar blowing everyone away with your skills, thanks to your newfound secret ability to practice at home. 
 

I love how Todd Frye did his own thing with remaking colors and layout of the maze. If people want to play the arcade version, there are a million different ports nowadays and none of them really do much to distinguish themselves from one another. But the Atari version is very memorable and interesting because of its uniqueness. Todd was not overly concerned with making it identical since he knew he was going to have make some concessions to accommodate the system constraints. I think he was very successful in capturing the "feel" of the gameplay, and created a game that was iconic in its own way, based on an already iconic game. 
 

The game offers a lot of challenge. The ghosts are very sneaky. I understand what their AI is doing, but there is just enough randomness that I still find myself getting trapped by them when I try to get too greedy. 
 

A lot of people think the goal of pac-man is to clear the board. Its not... its to eat all 4 ghosts on one power pellet. You get 4 tries per board, and clearing the maze is just a way to reset the board. Eating all 4 ghosts will net you 300 points, versus the paltry 128 you get from eating all the dots... er... wafers.

 

I truly believe that if it weren't being saddled with the expectation of replicating an arcade experience, and people had judged it solely as a game on its own merits, it would never have entered the conversation of "bad games".

I disagree. Even if you take away how much I was anticipating Pac*Man because of the arcade machine and try to put the comparison angle aside, Pac*Man still comes up short.

 

First, 2600 PM has terrible flickering. It is difficult on your eyes and these days actually will give me a headache. The flickering is so bad that the baddies which were originally described as "Monsters" were re-named ghosts because of the 2600 port. They flicker so bad that they are essentially translucent.

 

Second, the color scheme. The 2600 had very good color abilities. Unlike other game systems, the 2600 didn't have a built in color palate. To my knowledge, the 2600 can display pretty much any color. It cannot display multi-colored sprites, but that is something different. The yellow/orange Pac on a med blue background with an ugly shade of brown for the maze lines and dots and the inconsistent colors of the ghosts, is quite unpleasing to the eyes.

 

Third, the sound is terrible and doesn't match what you are doing. The sound made when you "eat a ghost" doesn't sound anything like eating a ghost. It's too "bright" or "cheery" of a sound.

 

Fourth, the maze design. The maze is bland and cramped.

 

Fifth, the AI. The ghosts mostly just swarm your position and don't have personalities or home corners.

 

Finally, the overall look of the game is just bad. Pac*Man has bad graphics. They are not at all pleasing to look at and in my case, causes headaches. Ugly does not mean simple. Lots of simple games are nice to look at, Pac*Man isn't one of them. Hell, the arcade version's graphics are just as simple, but they aren't bad or ugly in the way Pac*Man 2600 is.

 

The only redeeming thing about it is that was all I had as a kid. It is only looked back at with some nostalgia because that was all we had. If we had a better version of Pac*man, that is what we would be talking about today.

 

By the time better hardware was around that could do Pac*Man justice, the game was ancient history. The funny thing is that ALL of the ports of Pac*Man back in the day were bad. ALL OF THEM. Ms Pac Man had many good ports even on the same hardware, which is funny given that the arcade version is running on the Pac*Man hardware. Atarisoft had the license and ported the same bad port to every home system of the time. The monsters didn't have eyes in any of the home versions! This was not so with Ms. Pac*Man. Not only is this a graphics problem, but in the arcade, the eyes would show what direction the monster was about to go! All of the other systems which Atari developed for could show sprites with more than 1 color plus background and could have included eyes, since it only needs 2 colors plus background and most could do at least 3 plus background (transparent).

 

I think that this horrific abortion or a port played a major role in crashing the industry.



#79 christo930 OFFLINE  

christo930

    Moonsweeper

  • 299 posts

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 8:22 PM

The big issue for me was quality vs. cost. The quality was terrible and the cost was huge. Atari took a game that should have sold for $10 and sold it for $30-$40. They charged top dollar for a lousy game. If I had paid $10 for it I probably would have liked it just fine, but at $30 (the same price I paid for Asteroids) it was a rip off.

Don't forget that they probably paid a fortune for the license. Whatever they paid, they got a good deal and then screwed it up. Had they released a proper version of Pac Man (which we know can be done, even in 4k), the crash of 83 might not even have happened.  They did the same thing with ET. They allowed their best talent to leave just because they didn't want to allow these guys to take credit and have their names on the box (they weren't even asking for money)!

 

By this time, I'm pretty sure they were already owned by Time Warner who mismanaged Atari and ran into the ground. How the fuck did the 5200 controller get released? Who made that decision? Better, who decided to put 1978 technology in the next gen gaming system?

Marketing wanted to one-up Mattel who claimed a 16 way pad and Atari wanted to say "Oh YEA, how about 360! They also never even considered backward compatibility. They developed the 7800 and didn't release it. They turned down the distribution rights to the Famicom. They took a golden goose and starved it, beat it, invited the foxes over for tea....



#80 Random Terrain OFFLINE  

Random Terrain

    Visual batari Basic User

  • 28,866 posts
  • Controlled Randomness
    Replay Value
    Nonlinear
  • Location:North Carolina (USA)

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 8:29 PM

Second, the color scheme. The 2600 had very good color abilities. Unlike other game systems, the 2600 didn't have a built in color palate. To my knowledge, the 2600 can display pretty much any color. It cannot display multi-colored sprites, but that is something different. The yellow/orange Pac on a med blue background with an ugly shade of brown for the maze lines and dots and the inconsistent colors of the ghosts, is quite unpleasing to the eyes.


NTSC (128 unique colors)
PAL (104 unique colors)
SECAM (8 unique colors)

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories-tia-color-charts.html#interactive_color_charts

 

You can have multi-colored sprites, but each row can only have one color.

 

post-13-128174316453.png



#81 christo930 OFFLINE  

christo930

    Moonsweeper

  • 299 posts

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 9:19 PM

NTSC (128 unique colors)
PAL (104 unique colors)
SECAM (8 unique colors)

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories-tia-color-charts.html#interactive_color_charts

 

You can have multi-colored sprites, but each row can only have one color.

 

post-13-128174316453.png

I didn't know that. I do know it has a much broader range of colors than other systems of the era. The C64 has a pretty limited palate as does the Coleco and MSX and SG1000 (I'm pretty sure they (not the C64) all use the same 16 colors and same graphics chip). In any event, he could have used nicer looking colors.


Edited by christo930, Sun Oct 8, 2017 9:20 PM.


#82 Jumpman1981 OFFLINE  

Jumpman1981

    Chopper Commander

  • 203 posts
  • Location:Ontario, Canada (originally from Scotland)

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 9:51 PM

I agree, it's underated



#83 tschak909 OFFLINE  

tschak909

    River Patroller

  • 3,102 posts
  • Location:USA

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 10:34 PM

Anyone who shits on Pac-Man:

 

Try writing a game for the VCS.

 

Otherwise, STFU. :) (and I mean that in all seriousness)

 

-Thom


Edited by tschak909, Sun Oct 8, 2017 10:34 PM.


#84 christo930 OFFLINE  

christo930

    Moonsweeper

  • 299 posts

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 10:36 PM

Anyone who shits on Pac-Man:

 

Try writing a game for the VCS.

 

Otherwise, STFU. :) (and I mean that in all seriousness)

 

-Thom

So anyone who hasn't written a 2600 game can't criticize the games? OK.



#85 tschak909 OFFLINE  

tschak909

    River Patroller

  • 3,102 posts
  • Location:USA

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 10:47 PM

Pretty much.

 

The VCS is an extremely limited economy. You have 128 bytes of RAM, 76 processor cycles on a line, twice as many if you update every two lines. You need memory for the dots, for two players, which takes almost all of your RAM, to say nothing of other bits of system state.

 

Could Pac-Man have been improved? Sure, a blue maze, black background, but Atari did have a few guidelines against black backgrounds for space games. Put the maze holes on the right axis? sure, could have been done. 

 

A flicker manager? Yes, this has been proven to be possible when you have more than 4K of ROM to be able to create more unrolled kernels.

 

I am sick and fucking tired of people, who quite frankly have _ZERO_ understanding on the difficulties of WRITING a VCS game, just shit all over "game x" .... When you have spent many weeks counting to 76 and carefully timing each instruction to make sure that you have enough time to reset each element of playfield, player, missile, and ball, to create something that can DRAW the game state you have...and you go through the difficulties of trying to carefully make sure that your game state calculations happen within the allotted time when things AREN'T being drawn.... then you'll have perspective...and will be much more likely to shut the fuck up about it.

 

-Thom



#86 toiletunes OFFLINE  

toiletunes

    River Patroller

  • 3,950 posts
  • Hater Brigader
  • Location:Salem, Mo 65560 USA

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 10:48 PM

I have tried writing a game for the VCS, and Pac-Man was a disappointment. Change the graphics and call it something else, or at least fix the maze, colors, and sound. Calling that thing Pac-Man is like calling a turd chocolate.



#87 Bryan OFFLINE  

Bryan

    Quadrunner

  • 10,926 posts
  • Cruise Elroy = 4DB7
  • Location:Chesaning, MI

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 10:55 PM

Try writing a game for the VCS.

 

Many of the criticisms are just things that a quick hack could have (and has) fixed, and many of them require a more sophisticated game engine. But, customer expectations have to be factored in for the health of your company.

 

Again.. it's not a bad 2600 game, per se. Just off course of what was implied and expected. You never hear people criticizing Ms. Pac-Man this way and that's because it feels right. And that's what makes Pac-Man controversial.

 

And, yes, I have written 2600 programs and appreciate what a pain the ass they are. :)



#88 retroeight OFFLINE  

retroeight

    Star Raider

  • 76 posts

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 11:23 PM

 I can't think of another VCS game that was so outright disappointing.

 

Basic Programming comes to mind. That was a real turd.



#89 Random Terrain OFFLINE  

Random Terrain

    Visual batari Basic User

  • 28,866 posts
  • Controlled Randomness
    Replay Value
    Nonlinear
  • Location:North Carolina (USA)

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 11:39 PM

Pretty much.

 

The VCS is an extremely limited economy. You have 128 bytes of RAM, 76 processor cycles on a line, twice as many if you update every two lines. You need memory for the dots, for two players, which takes almost all of your RAM, to say nothing of other bits of system state.

 

Could Pac-Man have been improved? Sure, a blue maze, black background, but Atari did have a few guidelines against black backgrounds for space games. Put the maze holes on the right axis? sure, could have been done. 

 

A flicker manager? Yes, this has been proven to be possible when you have more than 4K of ROM to be able to create more unrolled kernels.

 

I am sick and fucking tired of people, who quite frankly have _ZERO_ understanding on the difficulties of WRITING a VCS game, just shit all over "game x" .... When you have spent many weeks counting to 76 and carefully timing each instruction to make sure that you have enough time to reset each element of playfield, player, missile, and ball, to create something that can DRAW the game state you have...and you go through the difficulties of trying to carefully make sure that your game state calculations happen within the allotted time when things AREN'T being drawn.... then you'll have perspective...and will be much more likely to shut the fuck up about it.

 

-Thom

 

Same goes for things like music and food. If you can't write a top 40 song, you should shut up and enjoy all songs. If you aren't a professionally trained chef, you should shut up and enjoy all food placed in front of you, including anything that is spoiled or rancid. You aren't qualified to judge, even when you can clearly tell quality from crap. Now listen to your headache-inducing music and try not to die from food poisoning.



#90 CPUWIZ OFFLINE  

CPUWIZ

    Commander

  • 34,629 posts
  • I am the one who knocks!
  • Location:SoCal

Posted Sun Oct 8, 2017 11:50 PM

 

Same goes for things like music and food. If you can't write a top 40 song, you should shut up and enjoy all songs you like. If you aren't a professionally trained chef, you should shut up and enjoy all food placed in front of you, that you like. You aren't qualified to judge, even when you can clearly tell quality from crap. All you have to do is, say no and/or pay and walk away.

 

:P



#91 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

KaeruYojimbo

    Stargunner

  • 1,726 posts
  • Location:Portland, OR

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 12:39 AM

I think that this horrific abortion or a port played a major role in crashing the industry.


Calling that an oversimplification of what happened is an oversimplification of how wrong you are. Do you actually believe one bad game out of hundreds for one system out of several on the market killed an entire industry? Next you'll be telling Coleco made intentionally bad ports or some other idiotic thing you saw on YouTube.

#92 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

KaeruYojimbo

    Stargunner

  • 1,726 posts
  • Location:Portland, OR

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 12:52 AM

By this time, I'm pretty sure they were already owned by Time Warner who mismanaged Atari and ran into the ground.


Warner bought Atari before the 2600 was released. Without money from Warner, Atari wouldn't have been able to launch the 2600.

#93 Karl G OFFLINE  

Karl G

    Dragonstomper

  • 735 posts

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 6:34 AM

 

It does not flicker on the FB portable.

 

That's because the emulator in the AFP has special handling for some games, including Asteroids. If you play a hacked version of the game on there (which will have a different checksum, and not be recognized by the emulator as Asteroids for special handling), then you will see plenty of flickering.



#94 nanochess OFFLINE  

nanochess

    Processorus Polyglotus

  • 5,792 posts
  • Coding something good
  • Location:Mexico City

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 6:45 AM

That's because the emulator in the AFP has special handling for some games, including Asteroids. If you play a hacked version of the game on there (which will have a different checksum, and not be recognized by the emulator as Asteroids for special handling), then you will see plenty of flickering.

Do you know how the checksum is calculated? it would be great to trick it into playing some games without flickering.

#95 Foxsolo2000 OFFLINE  

Foxsolo2000

    River Patroller

  • 3,706 posts
  • Our future resides in the hands of fools!
  • Location:Doomsville, middle of nowhere, UK

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 7:02 AM

You know I never had an issue with the game at time of release.  In truth I envied my friend who got it for his birthday.  Yes with hindsight you could argue that Atari could have done a better job but as a kid of 10 years old I enjoyed playing it as did all my friends for there was little in the way of choice as in my town arcades had an age limit of 16 to get in and trips to the seaside where you could enter arcades were few and far between.  Added to this I think Atari did a better job of Pac Man than Parker Bros did with Amidar.



#96 5-11under OFFLINE  

5-11under

    River Patroller

  • 3,395 posts
  • Location:Ontario, Canada

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 7:07 AM

Do you know how the checksum is calculated? it would be great to trick it into playing some games without flickering.

 

I don't know about the FB2, but for the ColecoVision and Intellivision Flashbacks, the checksum is just the addition of all the bytes (in the active area).



#97 zzip OFFLINE  

zzip

    River Patroller

  • 2,550 posts

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 7:11 AM

Mmm yeh.. I see.. Well? I wonder if the protos and early WIPs of PacMan-VCS were shown to the gaming public if there would have been complaints or suggestions? That's another advantage homebrew titles have. SpiceWare posted a billion Draconian builds for use to test and play with and hunt down bugs and make suggestions. And people who took the time to download the ROM and install it in their Harmony or Stella Emulator setups undoubtedly played it and offered feedback. We cared, the dev cared, and a good game is coming real soon. There's a lot of love going around.
 
Back in the 80's Atari the state of affairs revolving around PacMan for VCS is different though. It's like me taking my car into the shop for something to be done. And it gets done shoddily because the mechanic didn't take extra pride in his work. And when I complain, the mechanic says his boss didn't say anything. So the work is alright. Not top quality, but passable. This reflects on both the boss and the mechanic. It makes me wonder if games were pumped out on a corporate schedule
 
So, did Tod Frye need a babysitter? Because falling back on that excuse is lame! Even myself as a kid would have given the shifty eye toward the game. In fact we did. We knew it could be so much better. We knew what was going on.
 
That no one complained or even made suggestions is flabbergasting!


Companies today employ playtesters and beta testers to get feedback. Obviously not a practice Atari used.

#98 zzip OFFLINE  

zzip

    River Patroller

  • 2,550 posts

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 7:23 AM

I'm nostalgic for Atari Pac-Man. Even though I would be considered "young" compared to the rest of you, I remember seeing it the first time. I was 4 years old and had played Pac-Man on Namco Museum for GameCube. When my dad showed me the Atari version, I thought it looked so cool BECAUSE it looked nothing like the arcade game. I can see why people dislike it, but now we have things like "Pac-Man 4K" and "Pac-Man Arcade". Just play those if you don't like the game.


Today its moot because we can easily obtain the original and play it at home.

But in 82, when the game was hot, the only home option was the 2600, and they bungled it. It wasn't necessarily apparent then that we'd have new hardware every few years and better versions, but then again who wants to wait? By the time we had home versions that did it justice, it was no longer the hottest game around.

#99 Random Terrain OFFLINE  

Random Terrain

    Visual batari Basic User

  • 28,866 posts
  • Controlled Randomness
    Replay Value
    Nonlinear
  • Location:North Carolina (USA)

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 7:30 AM

But in 82, when the game was hot, the only home option was the 2600, and they bungled it.


Well, like I have on my web site, it was out on Atari computers before it was released on the Atari 2600, so that's why my family thought Atari 2600 Pac-Man might look similar.

 

youtube.com/watch?v=rDkOgIAR91w



#100 zzip OFFLINE  

zzip

    River Patroller

  • 2,550 posts

Posted Mon Oct 9, 2017 7:48 AM

Like I said, it wasn't till ms pacman came out people found it could be better, that said, average people, especially people with pacman fever didn't magically start hating it. It didn't start "sucking" till the internet era.


Not true. I knew the 2600 could do better as soon as I saw it. Even little things like getting the colors better, removing the eye that didn't belong, make the pacman shape rounder would help a lot, and require no extra memory.

Proof? Pacman-sold. Nuff said.


I guess people should have watched the "Let's Plays" on YouTube before running out to buy it day one. Oh wait..

Oh, and the fact is, the ghosts are, in fact, different colors. So the board is blue, so is ms pacman


It may be, but the maze color choices in Ms Pac aren't as obnoxious as Pac Man's. I think you could change 2600 MsPac to be more arcade-like, but the most important thing was that it didn't insult us with its design choices. It got more "little things" right than it did wrong.

I just played asteroids on my FB portable and it still holds up. I didnt appreciate how hard it would be to have so many moving items on the screen at the same time back then. There is ZERO flicker. Meanwhile, the Pac Man ghosts flicker so much they are almost invisible.

I dont know how they did it.


There are 3 types of graphics on the 2600, playfield, player (sprite) and missile (mini sprite). There's a very limited number of players and missiles you can put on screen (I think 2 players). Flicker mostly happens when you try to make it appear that there are more players than there actually are on a single line.

Asteroids probably uses one player for your ship, one player for the UFOs, missiles for the missles, and playfield graphics for the asteroids. That just happens to work out for this game.


$37.95??? I paid $37.95 for this turd? (I pre-ordered and paid full price, so if that was the price, that is what I paid.) Do you know how many frickin newspapers I had to deliver to pay for this crap fest. I was seriously pissed when I got that sucker home and plugged it in.

Wow. I dont think I realized how much resentment I still had from this event...


I'm sure you'll feel better knowing that $38 in 1982 is almost $97 in todays money :)

I wonder what I would've thought of VCS Pac-Man if I'd played it when I was younger. I never played it, but I played the Coleco tabletop version quite a bit. It wasn't as good as the "real" (arcade) game, but I liked it fine.


In that case we knew how limited LED games were, so we couldn't expect much more, but at least Coleco got the original artwork and actually made it actually look like a mini version of the arcade machine. Atari didn't even use the original artwork, which made it feel even more alien. To be fair though, at the time, Atari did their own artwork for everything, and a lot of it is now iconic.




0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users